The "Sharing" Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators A Federal Trade Commission Workshop
My name is Amanda. I am a single woman and an artist living in Chicago and have been an Airbnb host since October of 2013. As an artist, my income is inconsistent and at times lean. The revenue stream that has been created through the sharing of my home has not only allowed me to take care of my responsibilities but has also made it possible for me to invest in some more costly but necessary maintenance of my house. Namely, tuckpointing the façade and replacing old windows and doors-allowing me to employ others in the upkeep of the house. Last year I spent $12K on these projects alone. The guests that choose to stay with me do not want to stay in a hotel. For some, if their only option was a hotel they simply would not be able to travel due to the inflated expense. (I have had some guests tell me that a hotel room would have cost them $300 a night whereas they could stay with me for 30% of that.) This enables them to spend their dollars elsewhere during their travels. Other guests have told me that the experiences they have had in the conventional hospitality industry have left them feeling cold-they do not like the sterile environments and lack of human connection they have found in these hotels. As a result I have had over 80 guests from all corners of the world choose to stay in an obscure, ethnic neighborhood on the lower west side of Chicago. They come back to my house sharing with me the adventures that they have had. From the taquerias in my neighborhood to the finer dining in the West Loop-they are coming to Chicago with their tourist dollars to invest in a travel experience that is unlike any other. These people are getting to know Chicago through a Chicagoan who is genuinely interested in them and their personal impressions of her city. Airbnb verifies the identity of anyone who opens an account with the site. I am not obligated to host anyone that I do not want to. I am able to review their profile before accepting their reservation. Most people have used the service before and have already been "reviewed" by someone who has hosted them so that I can get a good idea of the kind of guest I am accepting. This works both ways. Guests review their hosts and the accommodations they provide. These are connected to the listings on the site so that potential guests have an accurate idea of where they are choosing to stay. This creates a self-policed environment. Knowing that one will be publicly praised or shamed in a review inspires both parties to bring their best to the experience. That said, not once have I felt unsafe in my home with a guest. From the moment they enter my house they are treated as family. In return they extend that same kindness and respect. Truth be told, I initially started hosting for the income, but now, I truly believe, I do it for of the love of sharing, the love of community, and my new idea of home.